Discover more from Anchor Change with Katie Harbath
The Tech TV Shows, Documentaries or Podcasts I Want to See
A wishlist for a different twist on the stories being produced
Happy Election Day to people in France and greetings from the 5 am bus taking me from Perugia, Italy to Rome for my flight back to DC. I was here to speak at the International Journalists Conference on a panel about being a tech worker on integrity/trust and safety.
Until Kinzen graciously invited me to be a part of this I had never heard of this conference before. Turns out it’s like the SXSW for journalists. I ended up knowing a few folks here and got to meet some new friends. The panels I went to were pretty good as well and there was a robust discussion about covering tech while also taking money from entities like Meta and Google (both of whom had branding everywhere).
While traveling here I had the opportunity to watch CNN+’s new Land of Giants documentary on Facebook which dropped Thursday. I’ve also been diligently watching every week episodes of the Dropout (Hulu show about Theranos), We Crashed (Apple+ show about WeWork), and Super Pumped (Showtime show about Uber). Down the line, there are at least two shows about Facebook coming. Both are based on New York Times reporting. One is from Mike Issac and the other is called Doomsday Machine based on Cecilia Kang and Sheera Frenkel’s book The Ugly Truth. A show Facebook is not at all happy that is being made.
I’ve had very mixed feelings watching the TV shows that have ranged from nostalgia to embarrassment and anger. Watching how these men - mostly aided by other men (other than Kalanick and Huffington) - did what they did and walked away with what they did just made me frustrated. I have no idea the emotional rollercoaster the Facebook ones will send me on but I’m sure I’ll share it here when the time comes.
The CNN+ documentary on Facebook is pretty straightforward. In full disclosure, I talked to them last May about it but all I’m quoted on is how we approached working with political parties and how people in the office felt the day after Trump won.
However, because they were trying to fit 18 years into 90 minutes the documentary barely scratched the surface. It reprised all the greatest hits of scandals the company has faced.
After watching the documentary and these shows I started thinking about the type of content I’d like to see that might give us new angles into these stories.
Now I share these ideas knowing that finding people to talk about their experiences is hard let alone then getting them to do so on camera. I will say that one of my motivating factors in talking about any of this is that all of these things are a part of the history of this time being written. I’m worried about it being shaped only by anti-tech people without really ever digging into the nuance of how these challenges came about or about the work that was done. (BTW I’m not saying the anti-tech stuff shouldn’t be covered - it absolutely should. Would just like to see other perspectives as well.)
At one of the panels about covering big tech, someone asked a question if there was room for journalism talking about solutions to the problems of tech or the positive aspects of it. I almost wanted to cheer out loud when I heard it asked and the panel was mixed. One person saw a role for it but the other two said that as journalists their job is to hold power accountable and you don’t do that by pointing out what they are doing right. The journalism school student in me understands that answer but I’d like to see a balance.
This takes me back to the type of content I would like to see. At my panel (which you can watch here), we talked about how covering content moderation is so hard as it’s nearly impossible for reporters to get into the details unless they are doing something longer form. My fellow panelist Ben Whitelaw and I were talking about this topic before we started and he mentioned that he would love to see a version of the West Wing that shows the day-to-day life of a tech company trying to execute content moderation, integrity, and trust/safety type work. He had me at West Wing of course but I would watch that show.
I’d also love to see a show/documentary about the integrity/trust and safety space. You start with the early days of fighting spam to all the various ways companies are trying to use AI to speed up finding violating content.
Speaking of the Oversight Board Issie Iapowsky’s piece about Facebook’s civil rights team had the rare acknowledgment of the company saying, “For all its faults — and it has many — Meta has tended to be a trendsetter in tech when it comes to experimenting with new forms of governance and transparency.” I’d love to see a documentary about that!
In all of these, I’d like to see more focus on the people doing the work and less on just the founders/CEOs. Again not because that story isn’t important but it’s been covered so extensively. Plus I think it’s worth exploring how a founder/CEO can sometimes derail a lot of collaborative and thoughtful work that went into a decision-making process. I felt that so much watching the tv shows about Theranos, Uber, and WeWork.
I’d love to see a history of how these products and algorithms evolved over the years - including how people’s use of them has also changed.
Let’s turn the tables a bit and also get a behind-the-scenes look at what it’s like for the reporters covering tech.
Moreover, take a look at tech’s impact in newsrooms. Not just how tech disrupted the news industry but how it’s changed the incentives for what stories they cover.
Finally, we should explore the role and influence political parties and governments have had on the platforms. This would be hard to do but this can’t just be bashing of the right kind of film. It needs to look at issues such as how Hunter Biden’s laptop was handled, community standards around social issues such as abortion or gay marriage, how different parties utilized social media, and how the parties and governments pressure the platforms to take down or leave the content up.
I also have a dream of someday doing a limited series podcast looking at how campaigns have used tech throughout the years.
With all these ideas above we also cannot just look at it from a US/Western World perspective. We need to look globally.
I’m asking for a lot here I know. So many hurdles to overcome and people who are professionals at show development are probably going to find numerous issues with any one of these - but, that’s the fun of brainstorming.
PS - While I’m in the mode of asking for things, can this story about a $23k cheese heist be made into a movie? Please?
Regulate.Tech: UK Online Safety Bill, A Very Unofficial Explainer
Americas Quarterly: Despite Everything, Bolsonaro Could Still Win
Twitter Brazil: More initiatives to protect the election conversation in Brazil
YouTube: Statement on Brazil Fake News Law
Oxford University Press: Regulating Big Tech
Newsguard: French Election Misinformation Tracker
Topics to keep an eye on that have a general timeframe of the first half of the year:
EU Passage of DSA and DMA
Facebook 2020 election research
Oversight Board opinion on cross-check
Senate & House hearings, markups, and potential votes
April 10 and 24 - France elections
April 10 - Mexico Referendum
April 24 - 27 - Public Affairs Council’s Advocacy Conference in Austin, TX
May 3 - Ohio Primary (Open Senate race)
May 9 - Philippines elections
May 17 - North Carolina and Pennsylvania Primaries (Open Senate races)
May 21 - Australia elections
May 23 (tentative): World Economic Forum, Davos
May 24 - Alabama and Georgia Primaries (AL open Senate race, GA Warnock defending seat)
May 29 - Colombia elections
June 6 (week of): Summit of the Americas, Los Angeles, CA
June 6-10: RightsCon, Online
June 6 - 7: Atlantic Council 360/Open Summit
June 9 - 10: Copenhagen Democracy Summit, Copenhagen, Denmark
June 25 - July 1: Aspen Ideas Festival, Aspen, Colorado
June 14 - Nevada Primary (Cortez Masto defending Senate seat)
August: Angola elections
August 2 - Arizona and Missouri Primaries (AZ Kelly defending Senate seat, MO open Senate race)
August 9 - Wisconsin Primary (Ron Johnson defending Senate seat)
August 9 - Kenya elections
September 11 - Sweden elections
September 13 - New Hampshire Primary (Hassan defending Senate seat)
September 28 - 30: Athens Democracy Forum
October 2 and 30 - Brazil
November 8 - United States Midterms